The blue shirts dotting the Whale Branch Early College High School gymnasium came alive.
The Hemingway fans chanted for defense late in the third quarter Monday during their team's Class 1-A girls basketball Lower State semifinal. But the Tigers had already shut the Warriors down, playing the same 2-3 zone they have all season.
No tricks or directives from the crowd needed.
Hemingway won 48-29, smothering the Warriors and advancing to play Timmonsville on Saturday in the Lower State final at the Florence Civic Center. The Tigers and Whirlwinds split during the Region 7-A schedule, each winning at home.
The Tigers' zone held Whale Branch to two field goals total during the second and third quarter. Only three Warriors scored.
"Basically it's stopped all the good offensive teams," Hemingway senior Kelsey Washington said. "That's the only defense we run. We know our position and play our position well."
Whale Branch finished the season 20-4, winning its first region title and reaching the third round for the first time in the school's three years. Warriors coach Wilbert Bryant knew Hemingway was a physical team and talented.
With the game slipping away going into halftime, Bryant wanted to come out in man-to-man defense and try to push the tempo. But the Tigers dicated the pace throughout the game.
"We thought we could out-quick them," Bryant said. "But we couldn't."
Bryant thanked his seniors in the locker room. Forward S'Nitra Mack and guard Kenyada Moultrie formed the core of the original Warriors team that suffered its share of blowouts before reaching the playoffs the past two seasons.
The Tigers, who knocked Whale Branch from the 2012 playoffs in the second round, prepared for Mack, an all-state selection the previous season. They wanted to front the Warriors senior in the post and guard against her left hand.
Mack scored 14 to lead the Warriors but was forced to work.
The Tigers have seen their defense have the same effect on many of the teams they have played this season. Frustration gives way to more frustration.
"The girls are long and lanky and kind of aggressive at times," Hemingway coach Chakaris Thomas said. "Just aggravate them. Just get on their nerves."
Whale Branch started fast, with all-state guard Kemoni Jenkins aggressive in the Warriors' 2-3 zone and forcing turnovers out of the press. Hemingway had not accounted for Jenkins, a Class 1-A all-state selection, in their concern for Mack.
But the Tigers eventually forced Whale Branch to slow down and play in the halfcourt. Mack was frustrated in the post and Jenkins' drives were swallowed by the zone.
Hemingway used a 10-0 run during the third quarter after Whale Branch had pulled within eight. The Tigers will try to reach the state title game for the first time since 1993.
"We just work hard," Washington said. "We're on a mission. We want to be complete."
Hemingway 48, Whale Branch 29
Hemingway (18-3)-- Iresha Cooper 12, Jashannah Wilson 9, Kelsey Washington 9, Diamond McFadden 8, Deja Woodberry 6, Diamond Scott 4. Whale Branch (20-4)-- S'Nitra Mack 14, Kemoni Jenkins 13, Jonae Riley 2.